In November 2002 the National Drug Strategy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Reference Group and the National Expert Advisory Committee on Alcohol (NEACA) held a joint meeting to develop a series of key priority actions to address gaps in the evidence base supporting Indigenous alcohol harm reduction initiatives. One of the priorities identified was the need for indicators of alcohol related harms specific to Indigenous Australians in order to allow the timely and reliable measurement of the effectiveness of policies and interventions. The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing funded the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) to undertake work in this area. As part of this project, a National Alcohol Indicators Project Bulletin (No. 11) on Indigenous alcohol-attributable death was published. It received intense media attention, and over 2000 copies of the bulletins have been distributed. Among the key finding were:
Over the period 1998 to 2004, an estimated 1,145 (4.85/10,000) Indigenous Australians died from alcohol attributable injury and disease caused by drinking.
Trends and numbers of alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians varied widely both between and within jurisdictions.
In 2004, Indigenous alcohol-attributable death rates in the Central NT (14/10,000), and WA North (10/10,000) were more than double the national rate of 4.17 per 10,00 for that year.
Suicide (19%) and alcoholic liver cirrhosis (18%) accounted for almost 40% of all alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous men.
Alcoholic liver cirrhosis (27%), haemorrhagic stroke (16%), and fatal injury caused by assault (10%) were the most common causes of alcohol-attributable death among Indigenous women.
Average age at death from alcohol-attributable causes among Indigenous people was about 35 years.